The Forgotten Threshold
THE FORGOTTEN THRESHOLD
A Journal of Arthur Middleton
FOR SUBSTANTIAL EMBODIMENT
Before Arthur Middleton died he gave me this record among others in
the belief that it would help to tell me what he had always known in
the silences, yet could never in life transmute into the friendly
counters of speech. During the last years of his all too brief
experience of his friends, more than once he shyly sought to tell what
he knew, yet always silence claimed him, and nothing but the wonder of
his eyes revealed the dream that consumed his heart. Because beauty
claims these words in a deeper knowledge than we had before, I have
transcribed this fragment of them here, confident that in these white
intuitions of his youth there is a revelation of the Light behind
beauty beyond our poor knowledge and still poorer faith. I have
omitted only what was most sacred to the privacies of his heart and
our affection. He was of the old faith and would have wished had he
published these pages to have expressed his entire and passionate
loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church in faith and deed, and to have
disclaimed any word therein which conflicted with the intimacies of
its truth. I can do no more than to echo his wish, and mourn the
unhappy chance which took him from us on an April tide, though it
befell on the Easter that he loved and at that hour when the flaming
symbol of the Divine Sacrifice was setting in the west. So the passion
of the sun and tide which reflected his belief witnessed the
consummation of his great desire.--THE EDITOR.
THE FORGOTTEN THRESHOLD
(N.B.--On the opening pages of the blank book in which this journal is
contained there is a short fragment which bears no relation that I can
discover to the entries that follow, and I am inclined to believe that
it is the beginning of an autobiography which Middleton never
continued. In my uncertainty, however, I print it, and accordingly it
is transcribed below.--THE EDITOR.)
_Fragment_.--I was not more than three years old when the sunlight
first made me happy as it stole through the curtains and over the
coverlet till it kissed my lips and wrapped me in its warm embrace.
Then I would fall asleep again and my dreams, if I dreamed at all,
were white and faintly stirred me to a smile. I never tried to catch
the sunbeams, for I felt their gold in my heart, nor could they have
been nearer than they were, being associated with my mother's
watchfulness as she stole in to smile upon my slumbers and claim the
second silent unconscious kiss. On Sunday morning they would be
freighted with a quiet whiter light, more peaceful and hushed to the
feeling of the day, and somehow the peace was guarded with finger on
lip throughout the house, so that it was implicit in my nest of images
long before reason took note of it or sought to explain it to my
consciousness. Once again as a boy of fifteen I knew it with a catch
of delighted and almost tearful surprise when I stroked the breast of
a wounded pigeon who found shelter in my room. The world is not as
quiet in these days, nor is the hum of traffic in the mart attuned so
kindly to the flow of light as when it ran so gently by the bedside of
the dreaming boy. ...
(The journal now follows, written in a small cramped hand, without
paragraphing or division. I omit the first few entries as purely
personal. Middleton had gone to a group of remote western islands, and
these notes are the fruit of his sojourn there.)--THE EDITOR.
Yesterday found me on the island with its silences, and last night the
host was red and sacrificial and rode on a thunder cloud. This
afternoon the planets go singing through my flesh and my song of
praise has widened to the arches of the sun. The sea is moaning slowly
on the sand. I stripped to the cool salt air for the first time. ...
Walking I found my way out on the long gray dunes.
On the dunes today with my mother. My hand swept idly over the soft
white sand, shifting the order of many thousands of starry worlds.
What a chord of music if one could but hear it in its entirety! As it
was, I caught wonderful echoes that would light the beauties of many a
sunrise. The silent man reminds me of Synge in his drifting life and
the fires glowing in his eyes. Today I saw the-beauty of a flower. ...
Some day I shall write a play about the stars. The action will burn in
their seedtime and blow on the winds of Fate with all its ironies. ...
Tonight in the sitting room I heard in my heart the singing of the
sands. It is on the shifting desert, I feel, that we shall discover
the secret origin of language. How the infinitely aspiring music must
sound tonight along the dunes!
The night before last after I retired I felt that lifted feeling
physically which represents the beating of the tides. Last night it
coalesced with the singing of the sands. At Mass this morning the
voices at the Credo thundered out _Et Homo factus est_ in a torrent of
living sound. At the elevation I saw a thin white flame rise from the
uplifted chalice and disappear. It takes a beam of light one hundred
and eight years to travel from Arcturus to the earth. Are we similar
traveling beams, and is death merely our arrival on another planet
which we illumine? Today I read aloud on the cliffs from the glories
of Plato's _Phaedrus_.
In the morning I wandered onto the dunes leading out toward Wonder
Island, but was driven off by the terns who were nesting. ... The
billows of the wind today mingled in me with the sands and the tide,
so that I experienced from a new angle Landor's "We are what suns and
winds and waters make us." ...
My life will see much traveling.
Morning on the dunes. A cold clear bath while mists drove over the
sands. Returning home, as I came to the deep sand on the road, I
perceived the mystery of the resurrection of the body. In death there
is no physical decay. The singing planets of the human body merely
part to combine in other songs, recurring again in the end to their
old disposal and song, exchanging other worlds for their own once
more, and recurring to the first motif of the symphony. I was sad this
afternoon for the will failed me in my work. Sitting on the sand this
morning the singing dunes had attained to the harmony of silence. All
at once a little wisp of seaweed--hardly more than a thread--started
to beat time upon the sands. And then I knew and saw it to be in its
happy beating the pulse that governed the music of the stars. Can the
heart conduct the symphony of the body? Tonight the sun set, borne
away--a Grail--by angels from the questing Galahad. There was a great
silence in my heart as I sat in the crowded room.
A day of northeast wind and upward thunder. The joy of the wind was in
me, and I lost the sense of space. The air was so buoyant that it was
closely kin to the sea. ... Today I succeeded a little better with my
will. I had a strange sensation this afternoon, which told me that
bare lonely places are the only places to write drama, since there
only can we find the pure dynamic forces of life disentangled from the
subtle and complicated web of human ambitions and interests. The air
was very thin and clear at twilight, but the sun was hidden in the
... There was a great silence this evening in the crowded room.
Closing my eyes, I raised the upper lids as far as possible without
seeing material things, and so saw myself in fearful wonder elevating
the host and chalice on high. I know now the inner meaning of "Domine,
non sum dignus _ut intres sub tecta mea_." Under these two arched
roofs of the eyes hidden from all light save Light, there is a secret
dwelling. ... A day of close-shrouded palling fog--a chrism confirming
the strength of beauty.
This morning the wind blew through the fields of grass like countless
angels in the courts of heaven. Shadow and color and light and
movement dancing before the first syllable of the Name. A gull flew
down almost to my hand, and the sunlight thundered in my ears. Last
night the sea was sadly purifying the earth. I now understand the
Washer of the Ford. Majesty lies in darkness, and grief is only the
privilege of seeing Majesty. Today on the porch with closed eyes
buried in my hands the winds swept over me in a torrent of living
light. A symphony is a wonderful symbol. In the first place, it is
music. In the second place, it is a name of praise with four
syllables. Then it completes a cycle, and returns on a higher plane to
the motif with which it began. It is the history of a soul, and in its
last movement typifies the resurrection of the body, by means of this
very return,--a return to the order and disposal in which it was
created and which it now reassumes to praise its Creator for all
eternity by the harmony of the original Thought. I looked at twilight
into the tiny white heart of a flower that grew among the grasses, and
out of the heart pulsed the Sacred Body in wounds all glorified, with
Hands outstretched conducting the music of the worlds. I know now that
the flower was a chalice. The sadness of it cannot die as the Man can,
and I know that it is with me ready to be shared. As I write this,
there is a mist within my room. I always sleep now like one ready to
soar. In the crowded room tonight I felt myself making the movements
of swimming, as if the air were water and I an expert swimmer.
_Views of the unveiled heavens alone forth bring Prophets who
A day of tempestuous wind and rain with all the keen dynamic life of
time poised 'mid eternities. The happiest of my days battling with the
elements in wonderful silences. At Mass with wonder the shining of the
Host. My eyes were veiled from the chalice, but I felt two angels
--guarding the acolytes. Again at the Credo the thunder of _Et Homo
factus est_. With Shelley in the afternoon and a perilous walk on the
cliffs. ... I am gaining in detachment. The desire and passion for
solitude grows and I meditate a winter on the islands. How unworthy I
am to partake of mysteries! They fill me with fear, for it is hard for
the body to live in eternity. In the evening with Gordon Craig. Is he
right about masks? A mask is a symbol, but a face may be a sacrament.
The Mass, after all, is the supreme dream and drama of the world.
Sadness is majesty, as I found the other night, and majesty is always
impenetrable, for it is a secret full of awe and mysterious silence.
Tonight I see that great drama, whether it be a tragedy or no, must
reveal time poised in infinity. Beauty, I think, contains everything
save the human will, and it is the ideal of the will to be thus
contained and of beauty to be the container. ... In the supreme drama
of Gethsemane and Calvary, Christ used the human body as the supreme
visible instrument of drama.
... Tonight the fog broke through the sunset and scattered gold across
the sea. Clouds hung over the cliffs. ... I prayed through the sunset,
and won a victory for the will.
Last night in the darkness I learned many things. The human will is
the unit, the core of flame which binds all elements together. It is
sad because it is the force of impact tearing things from their
detached and comfortable places and placing them in new relations. It
is the magnet, the summoning voice, our own conscience, the expression
of Majesty. It disposes reluctant and conflicting notes in harmony.
And we have control of it given into our hands. And then, too, I
learnt that words are worlds. At every breath, nay, by the slightest
thought, we create planets. Pray that they harmonize! They have power.
Are they angels? They convey our messages, but their harmony of
inter-woven song and meaning was lost at Babel to our ears. Yet by
them if our will is strong and we do not fail in deeds we may take our
part in the symphony as truly as life itself. And so we must not use
them idly. How can anyone dare to tell a lie? One begins to see how
God is a Name. I felt before how the secret of language was to be
found among the sands. It is because the sands are the nearest and
most visible planets we possess. Words are planets. But planets are
sands on the shore of eternity. Words are sands. We are little words
made flesh, little echoes in the image of the great Word made Flesh.
His creation is the complete echo made flesh, His Image and likeness
which He contemplates. And so we are in our measure part of the song
made flesh, and the little common words that we use are our brothers.
The sunset tonight was a glorious crucifixion after the day of clouds.
It was human in its beckoning. I cannot find the secret of the moon,
but it reminds me of Lionel's phrase, if it be his, "golden
mediocrities." Is it the astral embodiment of "They also serve who
only stand and wait"? Why is it that the little human beauties of
Nature pass me by as entities, and that I seek bare places? Is there a
parallel in my personal attitude toward all but those who are
specially dear to me? I thought of how I looked down on the city from
the mountain in May, and felt the whole city to be my prayer. It had
been given into my control for a few minutes, and the only worthy use
to which I could put it was to offer it up with a prayer for my people
and all the desire of my heart that the prayer would be answered. The
half-million souls with all their dreams were under my care then, and
their acts were mine. So little are cities, and so little I found my
worthiness that I could not hide my tears. Later I crossed to the
height looking down on the cemetery, the world was silent save for the
flaming heart of the city pulsing below, and reflecting the Flaming
Heart above as the sun set. The woodpeckers did not fear me, and I
sank slowly and deeply into God. I think that some day I shall know
His wounds. I cannot understand why I was delivered from temptation at
the moment that the city was put into my hands.
... I bathed on the dunes on Wonder Island. The sun set tonight
sacramentally just as it set that night at ---- when I failed to
speak. Never had I felt stronger, but something held me back from
telling him how the dearest wish of my life was that he should
participate in the Holy Eucharist. The flame was in my hands to lay
upon his heart, but something bade me wait. I distrusted it, and asked
him to walk with me on the shore. The thunder of the tide and the moon
were too strong. Why could I not have told him? We were silent for
hours while his heart lay with the _Titanic_, and even his little
daughter was quiet in the room.
The stars are the dust rubbed off from human souls. "Dust unto dust
thou shalt return." At the last judgment, they will fly together in an
angelic hosting, and clothe once more the souls which moved in them,
and our souls will rule their songs. Human suffering is the friction
of angels making stars. ... I know now that the end of one's forty
days is not complete knowledge, but only a clear indication of the
road. The joy is in that, and also the sorrow. It is the direction
given to the will, orders to be so carefully obeyed. This is the
greatest discovery of all. Words do not reveal it. It is absolutely
prosaic, though it is eternal beauty. But what I have written does not
reflect it even faintly as it seems to me. Read Hello this afternoon.
The freedom of the dunes this morning seemed to extend more than is
usual. Later I read from Plato's "Symposium."
... The proverbial symbol of impermanence is writing upon sand. What
could be more gloriously permanent? To have one's message spelled out
by singing planets, to write upon the stars. It is so that our songs
have immortality. "Verba scripta manent" takes on a majestic
significance. Are not joy and sadness the same? The only difference is
one of rapidity. Sadness is made up of the long, slow, majestic chords
of the song. It seems to me that when a wheel seems to cease motion,
and finally attains a state of motionlessness, it is perhaps merely
turning into a terrible speed which we cannot perceive. It is the
turning of an hour-glass. When I am dead, I wish only my faults to be
chronicled, for these alone have any value for the world. I have
dreamt always of cycles of infinities. As a decimal always tends by
evolution towards a number, so also we evolve toward an infinity. Yet
at that goal another infinity starts, as another infinity starts in
numbers,--the symbol of patience after all.
"Unto the man of yearning thought
And aspiration, to do nought
Is in itself almost an act,--
Being chasm-fire and cataract
Of the soul's utter depths unseal'd.
Yet woe to thee if once thou yield
Unto the act of doing nought!"
Read Hello and Elia. I am learning how to see in crowds. These past
few days I have succeeded in withdrawing into life for long periods in
the midst of a general conversation, yet my absence was not noted in
the least. Out of it I hope will develop the ability to be with life
always in the tangle and confusion of city circumstance. This
afternoon I read _Phaedrus_ aloud on a sunny cliff, and in the evening
read aloud Keats' "I stood tiptoe" on the green heights in the wind
and the rain. Rossetti's lines do not forbid a life of contemplation,
but rather encourage it as distinguished from quietism. ... Through
the summer I am to see the Crucifixion. How I envy St. Francis the
Stigmata! Even as a little boy I desired them--but I shall never be
able perhaps to love passionately enough. The nights that I cried as a
little fellow without knowing why, just because I loved, were nearer
than I shall ever be again.
At Benediction after Mass today I saw the Wonder in all Humanity with
Light surrounding It, and I shook with an awful thunder of sound. ...
Today I have been happy to tears, and in the blue afternoon on the
cliffs with my mother, I shared "Endymion" and "Epipsychidion." ... I
do not understand why silence is spoken of as a precept. To me it is
the living attribute of God. ... How nobly scornful is Sir Aubrey De
Vere's phrase, "witless ecstasies"!
Simply a day of hard work. But I was happy in it. In an odd way I felt
as I wrote all day on the smooth white paper that I was stroking the
sleek breasts of doves. Tonight the steady patter of the rain upon the
A day of hard routine work. ... Tonight in the inky darkness I walked
to the postoffice in the thundering wind and rain and surf, and
learned how the deeps can praise the Lord. I have always felt the
wonder of that psalm.
Rose at 4:30 and saw the sun rise a pure and shimmering symbol of the
Host above the silver outline of Wonder Island. The day was dumb. A
little boy has come whose face is his sacrament. What a song he must
sing! I look forward to the morrow as a day of special grace and
It is evident to me that music is wrong before a play or during
intermissions. But it is necessary until our dramatists provide some
other prelude. That prelude must be a beautiful setting of silence for
a few moments showing the protagonist under the light of eternity. In
the beginning all words contained a spiritual "import,"--were angels.
At Babel many fell. Now all our spiritual words are material words
grown out of their meanings. When expression becomes passion, it is
the passion of creation, clothing itself in images as God does through
eternity in the Passion of Creation. This is near the heart of life's
most awful secret, but words conceal it except from experience. For
Passion proceeds from Creation as Preservation proceeds from both,
though they are all from Eternity in the Unity of the Godhead. All my
planets at the contemplation of This are dancing before the throne.
The thunderous rhythm of their music is shaking me physically like the
engines of a steamer in shallow water. Every atom struggles against
the law of cohesion. God loves the beautiful boy. His name is Henry
R----. The Greeks, Emerson says, called the world _Cosmos_, Beauty.
Reading this on the veranda this afternoon, I closed my eyes and sank
contentedly into life. When I returned the faces were foreign, and
even my mother never knew. On the dunes this morning I heard the
silence of Eternity on the edge of time. I think it is a pine forest.
Babel took away the Word, until It came to earth, and in material form
took on supreme Spirit coming from the Father. ...
I wish I could raise a singing altar of planets by some great
sacrifice. My fingers drummed upon the sands this morning a crude and
simple rhythm. I thought of its influence in displacing planets, and
of the almost infinite musical variations that were set in motion, and
then I compared my crude thrumming with the majestic thunders of the
sea, and realized the insupportable beauty of absolute music. A dog
talks by smell. There are vibrations of smell, as well as of sound or
of heat or of light. And the blind reveal vibration of touch, the
holiest of the senses. We talk now by sound, but are learning to talk
by heat and light. When shall we learn to talk by smell and touch?
Flowers, too, talk by smell. There is nothing but vibration in the
image of God, for LIFE IS NOTHING MORE THAN THE TREMBLING OF HIS
BEAUTY. The awful speed of Truth hardens into fact. Words must not say
A dog taught me this,--Prince, the companion of the silent man. One
should be a priest when he marries two ideas. In any one of the
planets within the singing tissue of my flesh are Dantes and St.
Francises. Creation requires of us infinite crucifixions which we
shall never be able to consummate alone. When I lie on my breasts on
the sand and bury my face in my hands, all Nature receives me as a
human bridegroom, and I sink through time to eternity _creating_ space
around me, that widens and narrows to the reaches of immortality. It
is always on the sands that I find the friendliest depths, or in the
snow drift of cold planets upon a winter day or else within in the
terrible energy of my body, as my heart beats time to the universal
spheral rhythm. Think of the literal meaning of "universal!" Tonight
in the silence I read _Prometheus Bound_. I love the grace of the
boy's eyes. I pray to be guarded from the pride of humility.
[Illustration: Circle with a cross through it.]
... It was a day of silences. I traced this figure idly on the sand
today, and suddenly understood the symbolism of the scarab. But did
the Egyptians anticipate the Redemption? As men are impressed by the
face of the world, so is the world impressed by their faces. The face,
as mirror of the soul, shines forth with electricity and makes an
impression on life, altering the song of those it acts upon as the
violin sound alters the formation of sands resting on a tightened
drum. By what ancient intuition does the Latin word "malum" mean both
"apple" and "evil"? Music creates substance through the speed of
gaiety, and God in His Creation is a cosmic humorist. (Cosmic means
beautiful.) To distinguish between fascination and sympathy is a
counsel of perfection for critics which has its spiritual analogies.
... Angels ran in hosts through the grasses.
"His soul's most secret thought,
Eternal Light declares."
I read Lionel's poems on the cliffs, and almost discovered the secret
of the blue. Today for the first time I realized the remoteness of
these islands, and it was a great joy. It was a golden day of sunshine
on the cliffs with blue cloudless sky over quiet waters. Life is
turning inward to the heart of silence, and out of it will come the
beauty of my dream if life is willing.
... I met a man today who knew beauty. He was a French country
lawyer. ... The sunset tonight revealed all the sadness of the Burning
Babe. I failed today.
Another sadder failure of the will. Yet beauty came in the evening.
The love of man, far more the love of God, is God in heaven descended
upon earth, eternity made time in beauty, "majestic instancy," the
Word made Flesh. The soul is the pool wherein God and we see our
images, and Heaven will be the mutual contemplation of our souls. So
that human love is the adoration of God in human flesh, and therein
may the beloved be seen as the image of God in time. The praise of Our
Lady should then be the praise of God. Was this Patmore's secret? Or
Dante's and Petrarch's? "My lady was desired in the high heaven." ...
I see now how in Heaven there is no marriage or giving in marriage.
Far flowing ramparts of a starry world! The _flammantia moenia mundi_
of Lucretius. To contemplate Beauty FACE TO FACE! What a wonderful
proof of the beauty of our souls. Twin mirrors of a single singing
thought, the face of man looking into the Face of God, soul mingling
with Soul in immortal music, bathed in the cool wind of Our Lady's
eyes. Today I lost a nation in the cycle of my soul. What is the blood
but the history of my planets as engraved upon the constellations of
my flesh? It is the book of the angel of judgment for the first
syllable of my song, as the emotions, the intellect, and, alas, the
will, for the second, third, and fourth. The flesh is the ebb tide
from God, as the emotions are the flood. The intellect is the second
ebb, and in the will pray God that it may be flood! The other is
... A victory for the will this morning. ... Tomorrow is the first of
August, and I shall enter upon my forty days. The ringing in my ears
is the ringing of my fleshly stars "toned all in Time." I have
commenced an anthology of high imaginings more worthy than a book of
essays of that title I have loved and desired to use for
years,--_Flame and Dew_. If rightly done, it may do poetry one of the
greatest of services by assisting it to praise Beauty on many lips in
naked Light. I wish to consecrate my work on it to that end. Today I
have been influenced by Frederick Tennyson, Traherne, and Patmore. In
agony lies the highest music. The key is struck by circumstance,
Time's organist, and the stars tremble with music. For the full
thundering silence of Absolute Beauty a Divine Agony was necessary, so
that all Heaven and its choirs and Hell trembled in the majesty of
this _stricken_ Doom. Death is the final chord, the passage of our
full song from time to the silence of eternity. Sleep next to death is
the most terrible life that soul and body knows. It is the center of
the wheel radiating high powers to the circumference. The speed there
is terrific, so fast that it hardens, again that "majestic instancy."
The tiniest flame is the friction of conflicting "universes." Beauty
is alike the center and circumference of infinity, the silent wheel of
omnipresent omnipotence, wherein all thoughts are not timed but
eternal. From eternity we were nothing: to eternity we are Beauty's
image. Is it strange that in sleep we are often given sight?
Art is the exhibition of life in the light of eternity. I can conceive
of no other adequate critical formula. This applies to painting,
sculpture, literature and music. Such too is the art of life,--the
exhibition to God and man of life in the light of eternity. I have
been startled to find a kinship between Wordsworth and Millet. I found
it today in a stooped old man who was traveling the roads with a
walking stick and a heavy bundle of driftwood. He was worthy of a
great painter or a great poet. By the sign of the cross one draws a
magic circle round the soul which evil may not penetrate. It places
one "in the name." On the seashore one should lie parallel with the
waves facing inland. Then only may one advance onward with their
It is absolutely true that only music may shape woods and fountains
and the beauty of souls, for it is the only medium of expression which
is pure. Pure music is the true white magic, as black magic is music
mixed with clay by human hands. Naked Beauty alone may mix music with
clay in Its own image and likeness. Even poetry fails save in so far
as it echoes the pure natural truths of music. And all creation may
flow from a flute if the player breathes a prayer. Some day we shall
have the great opera of the Incarnation and Redemption. It is the
ideal goal of music, and so of all art. But it demands the poet, the
painter, and the sculptor, too, for its actors shall be immortal
statues and a living chorus singing the passion of the race against
the supreme dawn and the supreme sunset. But its greatest moments will
be silence. Christ and His Mother will live this silence in the glory
of transfigured stone, and the drama will be played in the open with
the stars above as orchestra, to which the human music will be but a
beautiful echo. To this Wagner and Craig point the way. I read
Patmore's _Two Infinities_ today with bewilderment and emphatic
disagreement. It seems absolutely lacking in vision, provincial,
almost challenging Creation. And yet it is essentially true. Christ
was a man of golden mediocrities. He speaks of the lilies of the
field, but never of stars or of planets. And St. Francis perhaps hints
at the solution. To him brother Wind and brother Fire and brother Worm
are alike and equal, for he sees them in the light of infinity. But
all are wonderful, and we must not sneer at the stars. ... Today
writing as a means of expression has seemed to be absolutely futile.
Silence is the only active way of praise that I can find, provided
that it informs some daily action. My will won again today. Horizons
are wonderful. S---- told me that Lionel invited him into his Oxford
rooms one evening at sunset and led him to a seat from which nothing
lower than the horizon was to be seen. "There," he said, "nothing
matters that is below that line." You see he knew that our souls in
their beauty are always above it.
To watch a grass-blade tapping will teach you wonderful music--the
language of the wind. The sunlight running through my flesh in-flames
the song of the will. I lost myself tonight in the crowded silences.
Joy stays with me now, and if I can only join it to sorrow, the will
can then sing simply and freely a continuous song. The turning of the
tide is soon to come, and my homesickness for G----ville is
transforming itself into a different nostalgia. My planets are rising
in song like little candle flames. I wish I possessed their humility.
Within me tonight are quiet moonlit waters very full and rich with
silent promises of rest.
At Mass today Mr. C---- showed a fine courtesy serving with the high
humility of a punctilious gentleman. ... Today I saw the body of
Christ, "infinite riches in a little room." The human body of Christ
in its passion is the sum of all our bodies, and it is this truth to
which pantheism in its blindness dimly beckons. The saints and pure
poets and those who have died for friends are the image of the Sacred
Heart, and in them at moments of pure _reflection_ there is naked
light and the vision which is insupportable. Hence in the greatest
saints the stigmata. All God's lonely ones are the reflections of His
pain when they attain to sanctity. And holy priests are the
reflections of His Hands. Little children and saints may look into His
Eyes and see their own. And repentant sinners may reflect His Feet in
their tears. All the births and lives of the earth go to form His
Human Body, which is vast as Eternity and radiating with Light from
all points and inward to the Heart of Light. To some saints it has
been permitted to be the spouse of this body and soul. Magic is white
or black. White magic is the offspring of spiritual marriage and is a
sacrament. Black magic is the offspring of unauthorized spiritual
contacts. My frame tonight is possessed by angels dancing before the
throne in a fearfully rapid rhythm. The secret of spiritual
achievement is unremitting labor urged without ceasing by a fearful
joy. No drama is more vast than that of the crucifixion, and yet I
have seen it all in the heart of a strawberry blossom with wounds all
glorified in an ecstasy of living trembling light, and heard the
beating of His Sacred Heart while universe called out to universe in
the anguish of His surrender and all the stars died into the Light of
Eternity. The tide has turned.
Today looking into a narrow dome I saw the seeded planets banded by
circles of light whereon they turned. And color changed into silence
at the bidding of the central suns. And these were the eyes of happy
innocence wherein all others died to the Living Light, God being in
them by their childishness. The tide turned yesterday, and today I
have spent entirely in eternity surrounded by a host of fair-winged
Possibilities, God's angels to humanity. Death is glorified by their
passage from the future to the past, and we respond by plunging our
lights into the Light wherein it dies. _Abt Vogler_ is the musical
philosophy of it all. At my first symphony concert as a little boy, I
saw the face of the dying Christ through the wall, and in it the music
of the seventh Symphony sang through the naked eyes calling me inward
to the Sacred Heart. This morning and noon at table I smiled at white
horizons and in the evening I swam through the Host on my future
wings. We love earth, air, fire, and water now, but the eternal joy of
swimming through the Light of God and reflecting His Light in song and
silence is the infinity of all poets' dreams incarnate in the awful
speed of Absolute Music. It is the privilege of laughing into the Eyes
of God, those Eyes before which the angels veil their faces. It is the
privilege of smelling the blossom of the Living Rose, of tasting and
consuming forever the Body and Blood, of touching the Sacred Knees,
and of hearing the Divinity who is Music. Priests and poets shall swim
in the song of his heart, and those who have died for friends will
reflect its resolving rhythm. How I pity Blake his pride, though he
was preserved from the pride of humility. God will let me see more of
Him in this life than Blake did, though it is of the most trifling
significance to anticipate eternity in poor time, the crippled heir of
original sin. Since it is to be, I wish with all my blood that my will
A day of happy drudgery reading proofs. I rode through them in the
winds of eternity. That is the secret of it all,--to teach us joy. The
human symbol of it is a martyr's ecstasy, which is in no way sensuous
or voluptuous since it has completely forgotten the body. The Sacred
Heart is the Mystical Rose spreading its petals over the Cross of
Time. In _Flame and Dew_ is the first application of an idea and
belief that the day will come when anthologies will be books
containing the wisdom of the poets on special sciences, such as the
science of childhood, the science of love, the science of death, and
the science of silence.
Imagination being Eternal Life, it shows the blind instinct of
language that the word should mean the creation of images. Imagination
is the instrument of God's creation in his own _image_ and likeness.
Today I came to Petrarch and Dante--the mystics of the supreme
elements. To contrast their serenity with Blake's wrath shows the
whiter heights. All height is inward through narrow circles to the
Central Fire of Silent Love from which the angels shrink in spiral
messages of inspiring flame, and toward which humanity aspires in
narrowing and advancing circles of expiring flesh. But depth is
outward to the hearts of men. Sirius sings to my living stars tonight
its light in the music of the ancient winds, telling me of the
crucifixion in burning colors of a dying world. Why am I unworthy of
an equal death? The blood runs toward it in a passion of harmony. The
day is near when my morning stars shall sing their lives out together
in praise of their Creator, though it is futile to measure it in terms
of time. One is not curious of time if one lives in eternity. Death is
then only the fulfilment of our operative desires. I wish that I were
one of the tears of God. Joy is for those _of good will_.
I met one of Wordsworth's old men today gathering faggots on the
shore. "I have been to all places and cities and I found no one happy
on the world, and now I wish me to be dead." ... Tonight I bowed in
silence under the vault of stars. To be holy is to lose the knowledge
of good and evil through "clinging Heaven by the hems." To refuse evil
is to refuse the apple _(malum)_ of the Tree of Knowledge. There is no
possibility of finding the ideal unless we look passionately for
nothing but the beauty of souls, seeing therein God's image and
refusing to perceive the clouds of evil. Circles lead to Heaven, but
straight lines to Hell. Straight lines are the tangents that "err"
from the sphere of the ideal. Miss C---- told me about a little boy
who was visiting Italy with his mother. He fell down hill, and stopped
before a roadside crucifix. And then he forgot his fall. They found
him crying as if his heart would break, and he told them that it was
because he was so sorry for that sad Man whom everybody had made
suffer so. The angels drop seed into our souls which make them
invisible to other men, and we also may plant seed with modesty and
humility. It is God's fernseed to mortals. How strange it is that we
measure time by moons, cold satellites, and thus the symbol of death.
But after all time is the dark night of the soul. I realized for the
first time today that I was born in December, the month of creation,
when the flame turns in upon itself in the hard cold earth and gives
birth to high hopes whose fulfilment are in eternity. It is the month
of Christmas on that account. I have begun to perceive what awful
wings my thoughts have, and know that they are given them by God
through me to carry them humbly into the most secret circle of the
Sacred Breast. We must do the labor of God with human hands, yet the
Labor of God is the Creation of Beauty. As the vegetable kingdom
renews its life once a year through time and so preserves its secret,
our souls must renew themselves in infinite recurrence through
eternity. Our life differs only in ardor which is speed. The greatest
speed lies in submission, for submission is the greatest strength. At
high moments it is Atlas supporting the earth. At the supreme moment,
it becomes the mystery of the Redemption.
Singing through the universal stars that were woven into His Flesh, I
saw the Son of God tonight glorified in the joy of a living Smile. And
all the angels bowed laughing toward Him and clapped and danced before
His Name, though the sum of their song was silence. And then every
living star was scourged by the sins of men, and died into the
darkness, saying "Thy Will be done," and it was morning with the
Eucharist in the sky. Only Redemption trembled through the air. The
stars are the eternal reflections of God's patience, for they endure
His Human Passion, since together they form the shadow of the Word
made Flesh. They are the singing echo in time of God's speechless
patience, as we are destined to be if we conquer our wills. But
patience is suffering, and Alpha must submit to the yoke of Omega.
Since God is the Alpha and Omega he caused the Incarnation and
Passion. THE IDEAL OF HUMAN LIFE IS THE PASSIONATE REDEMPTION OF THE
WILL. This is life's darkest secret, _unless_ we live in the
Eucharist. We are to be the silent reflections of speechless patience
in the still waters of eternity. The evil came when Lucifer stole fire
from heaven and brought it down to men. Conquer fire, and we conquer
the will. Then heaven is ours. My body and blood ache with my prayer
The angels weave what God creates, according to their functions. His
archangels are the weavers of time, and all the others of material
nature, uninformed by a soul. This is a branch of the heavenly song.
To weave God's image is the function of the saints and of all those on
earth. It is the wonder of incarnate Music that saved the world,
Absolute Silence born into Sound, and dying with all Sound into
Silence. The archangels are God's messengers of life and death, for
they control the days. But they are sent from Him to His Image, and
our weaving is made out of their materials as we adapt them to our
song. All outer powers and forces are brought us by the angels, and
among the dearest to God's heart are his flame-winged Possibilities
that hover on the borderline between today and tomorrow, Time and
Eternity. They alone may not enter time unless we beckon them. The
starry heaven is the heaven of the body; the crystal sphere, of the
intellect; and the empyrean, of the pure soul. We may live in the
starry heaven in this life, if God gives us the grace. But it is then
a heaven of desire. But the weaving of the angels is the whole
philosophy of nature. Their music explains its sympathies and sorrows,
its deaths and resurrections, and above all its solemn silences of
night and noon. And the song of their weaving becomes nature's love of
wisdom, that is to say, adoration of the Word. The saints are the only
complete philosophers. The object of asceticism is generally
misunderstood, particularly in one phase of its endeavors,--to forget
the body. The truth of the matter is that the flesh and blood in their
highest song toward which we should strive are so occupied with
praising God that they completely lack self-consciousness, and do not
distract the intellect or the will. God is with them in naked purity.
It is His simplest and dearest starry music. He demands that our life
should be a programme of infinite proportions. And yet I wonder if a
saint can ever be both a great prophet and a great apostle. I do not
believe a great prophet can be tender enough to persuade. That is why
prophets are scorned or ignored by their generation. Gentleness is the
absolute breath of music, which alone can penetrate the soul or even
the material body of nature. The supreme gentleness of St. Francis of
Assisi made the birds listen to his music, for his breath ran dancing
in a cool breeze through all their singing stars. We need a St.
Francis at present burningly. Is it possible to form a religious order
of the poets? Here is an ideal. But it must be Franciscan: a gown, a
girdle, and sandals, poverty, chastity, and obedience. Where is the
wise man to obey? I can believe that jewels are potent for good or
evil, since they are condensed flame and a secret word lies hidden in
each of their hearts. A day of tempestuous wind and rain.
Today I found myself progressing slowly to a triumphant rhythm round
the circumference of a vast musical plane. The celestial earth is flat
but progresses upwards to its central point, the cone of aspiration
and song. And then I remembered the vision of St. Frances of Rome
wherein she saw the Supreme Godhead as a vast Circle of Light in the
midst of which was a Pillar, the Cone of Redemption and Silence. Death
is the point of meeting. Perhaps the Zodiac is the merry-go-round of
the stars. A second day of tempest. The great message of future poetry
will be to proclaim that nature is the expression of man, rather than
man of nature, and thus to reveal the essential nobility of man as the
image of God rather than the image of nature. Suns and winds and
waters are what we make them. Pantheism confuses the image of the
image with the face. Nature is the mirror of man as man is the mirror
of God. Nay more, nature is the mirror in time of man's eternity, as
man is the image in time and eternity of God. It is for this reason
that the stars are the open book of the future, though they are not to
be read by men aloud. Astrology is forbidden because it violates the
precept of silence, which is the courtesy we pay as gentlemen to God.
We may only read the stars in little children's eyes, wherein their
future is concealed. The breast of Mary is the fountain of the stars,
and round it fly the seraphim in flaming adoration of the blessed
womb. Her eyes are God's dew, wherein the secret of His Light is
whispered by the thrones. I felt through the morning His human
Presence graciously walking the roads, and I was resting on His left
Arm that brought me to His Heart, the country wherein the dreams of my
will are born.
I have been sick today. Rain and tempest, but God was on the wind, and
I am happy.
Still ill. Rain and fog with intermittent sunshine. But I am as happy
as I have ever been.
Still ill. Fog in the morning breaking into a wonderful pearl day of
summer haze. Our bodily senses are instruments in our orchestra.
Today I sank into Beauty several times in the sunlight.
Read through the last proofs and on the dunes with my mother in the
afternoon I lived in the light of God. The sun I caused to smile and I
wrapped myself in the blue of the Virgin's sky. I found myself causing
a shower twice by failing in humility. But the laughing Light of God's
eyes in my soul is eternal, and when I submit it controls the tides of
my body and mind. Tonight a woodpecker alighted on Father K----'s
shoulder and stayed with him nearby. The Brahmin may attain to the
shadow of the first syllable of the Word. He does not believe that
there are others. _Om_ is simply the symbol of inward breath,
inspiration. I heard myself today very near to the Heart of Silence,
whose systole and diastole is the ebb and flow of Love from Eternity
to Eternity. Time is the sound of silence and is dead to all eternity.
It is the only beautiful death that the angels do not mourn, for in
the death of Time is the Redemption of the World. It takes the circle
of eternity to unite the four points of the cross, and a crucifixion
to unite two parallel lines.
Out of the summer I am weaving the pattern web of the future in
threads of desire. Every resurrection of a body is the last judgment
of infinite planets, which fly to or flee from the human song of God's
first syllable. Yet those that flee may be purchased by an infinite
Redemption. This opens a terrible possibility of mercy. Is God
continually becoming man for the love of His image? This is the joyful
secret of God's sad fourth syllable. I clothe it in words to guard it
from my intellect. Infinite incarnations prove time an illusion, since
they make it eternity. God's Sacred Heart is the silent ocean beyond
the universe. It reflects. The Incarnation is its flood. The Host
tonight was more white than shining silver in a lonely pearl sky. It
was Absolute Music unveiled to the human eye. Tonight I stood out for
long alone with the stars, and watched a thunderstorm come over the
sea. We must guard our dreams and intuitions not only from the
intellects of others but most of all from our own. Yet our faith must
be precisely bounded, although this boundary is to be none other than
the infinite succession of points where time and eternity meet and bow
down before God. This morning I saw His Beauty in a daisy. ... I do
not believe that God will reveal His mysteries if we seek to know
them, without inflicting a penalty. The way of knowledge is the way of
silent patience, which lies quietly dreaming of Love till the flood
washes it with Living Light.
Every time we look into another's soul we may enter Paradise. There is
an indescribable grace in the air this first day of prescient autumn.
The summer has taught me the secret of loneliness and the infinite way
of satisfying its desire. To be alone with God we must be intimate
with the beauty in the eyes of every face, and yet absolutely detached
save from one's family and friend. Life's ideal is to see the end in
the beginning, and act the road between. This is no other than the
eternal life of the Alpha and Omega. But the essence of it in time is
that the whole tide of humanity should ebb and flow in our breast. It
requires a crucifixion to drink in all its saltness. I found the dunes
beyond the lagoon this morning and sank into God in the wind of the
sunlit blue. When I returned, the people were coming from Church.
Tonight the Host was quivering gold, and as I write the planets are
ringing in my ears. I pray that at the end I may come to the Heart of
On the dunes this morning toward Wonder Island ... Eternity is
infinite speed. Time is the dragwheel, nothing more. Hence the
significance of "when eternity reaffirms the conception of an hour."
Flame is the symbol of time as dew is the symbol of eternity. They
meet in Christ and through Him in the human race. The moon properly
loved is the kindness of time, as the sun is the reflected love of
Eternity made Flesh in the Host on the altar. ... Tonight I desire
only silence to love.
On the dunes toward Wonder Island this morning I lost space and walked
upon the blue ringing a cycle of stars in either hand. But I felt no
sense of distance and the seed of the sands blew on the wind which
carried me. It taught me how to walk softly through life, and coming
home I had the sand in my hair. I know now what clouds are, softer
than the breasts of doves. God's flying sorrows are the sandals of the
soul. They make us His angels, Mercuries of Light. The sun has not
bled for many a night, but has slowly descended in silver splendor,
always a second dawn with its fresh, keen, cool surprises. Today was
the grace of last night's desire. The wonder of it this morning was my
complete surrender, the assurance with which I moved on the singing
skies as my native element. I know that only the appearances remained,
as in the Eucharist after the Consecration we seem to see the bread
and wine. Life was the poise of infinity, and I knew of no horizon,
for I could look down upon the dawn. It came two weeks ago Sunday in
my heart. I see the mystery of the Resurrection in its beauty, and why
white lilies are its deepest symbol. How can there be a prison or a
cage? Every twilight is a white horizon. The gulls know that and the
sea tonight has lost its sorrow.
By sailboat to P---- and G---- with the silent man, returning with the
stars. Their hosting was like the flocking of wild geese, and they
followed St. Francis of Assisi as a leader, the captain of the morning
stars. In the silence I heard the operation of the divine mathematics.
I loved those Chaldean seers to whom God talked directly and wrote His
message upon the stars. I lay prone on the deck looking upwards and
fell into the Divine Ocean slowly. The moon rode serenely to the
southwest, and humanity was with me in the boat. Navigators are now
the only men left wise enough to follow the stars. The sunpath was
Jacob's ladder, and the Aran islanders know its secret when they see
Tir-n'an-Og in the west on calm sunset evenings. The sea had my trust,
eternal through yesterday's experience, and I believe that if faith
and good works required it of me, I could walk softly over it. If the
soul is to control the body, surely spiritual gravity should be able
to overcome material gravity. Certainly it would take more than the
sea to quench my flame, if God made me worthy.
I looked down from great heights today on all the little smiling
intimacies. They are like happy babies to me, and my speech should
play with them, if I can ever become worthy of their simplicity. The
rhythm of all music is the systole and diastole of the Sacred Heart,
which is the ebb and flow of an infinite ocean. This is the meaning, I
think, of the old Gaelic rune, _Ri tragadh s'ri lionadh, mar a bha,
mar a tha, mar a bhitheas gu bragh ri traghadh s'ri lionadh_. (The ebb
and the flow, as it was, as it is, as it ever shall be, the ebb and
the flow.) The resolute gaze of the soul toward this in love
constitutes prayer in its only form. It shows blood to be the most
rich and beautiful of human things, and its salt waves purify the
flesh, as the salt waves of Gethsemane and Calvary redeemed the soul
and its singing stars.
My life so far has been a word, and not a deed. But the world was not
redeemed until the Word BECAME FLESH--AND DWELT AMONGST US. Mary S----
met us on the roads today and said, "I hope that we'll be meeting in
Heaven, we seem to meet so often now." I sleep at night in a cruciform
position adoring beauty with every faculty save my will, the most
necessary of all.
In the open today amid a hurricane of wind ... I walked with a
childish old man with a pleasant soul. The wind brought meteor showers
of beauty to the body. It rained grace in the sky of noon.
I could carry overflowing happiness now even to New York. Today
reminded me of the sunlight on the roar of Broadway. God is on the
wind tonight, and is beating down my will with his wings.
I lay through a night of tempestuous wind with the open window at my
head. I awoke and saw myself face to face in my weakness. It rained
all day. ... I can hardly bear my love today. It is a terrific dynamo
of silence. But it will be very long before I shall fulfill my
worthiness. If one could always remember that he is a saviour, and
carry humanity with him, his will would be inflexible and every act an
exulting humility. All nature is but a mantle which the wind of my
spirit disposes in folds about me, and humanity is the chalice in
which I may communicate with God,--a chalice woven of our singing
flesh and heart and brain and will, wherein the will is its depth, the
Atlas which bears the Sacred Body and Blood when it is given to us.
Sorrow has come at last. Full moon, and life is at the flood. The
precept of all adversity is of course that the ebb tide of fortune is
our flood toward God. Even the lamp tonight is singing in the room.
The experience still turns inward to the heart of life. I now see the
core of it. It burns, of course, but think of the wheel it carries. A
few days ago I was on the circumference. Now I have found the center.
A day of rain and wind and exterior disturbances. But I have found my
A victory for the will. ... It is strange that every vital lesson that
experience teaches can never be expressed in words. The past few days
have taught me more than the rest of the summer. There will always be
a secrecy of the soul, and what this contains constitutes God's image
and likeness. Life sings tonight in every atom its marvelous chemistry
of change and prophecy. Nature knows no elegies, since it may never
triumph over aught but dust. But the highest dream is less worthy than
the simplest deed, and we must forget the knowledge of good and evil.
I would exchange all the knowledge I have gained for the grace to
perform the slightest act of St. Francis. God has made our opportunity
infinite by giving us an eternal standard of values,--that is all.
I am afraid to write further for fear that I shall soon become
self-conscious. ... It is strange that the will did not come home to
me as a complete experience before. I simply had the foreboding of it.
This summer on the 9th of August I heard the Fourth Syllable in its
awfulness for the first time, and understood the mystery of the
Redemption. The time has now come to close this book, for the record
is complete, and may not be reopened until I redeem my will.
_They departed into their own country another way_.
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